he Wardian Case is obviously the well known precursor of the terrarium, and it is of course the inspiration to today's modern hobby terrariums. In the past year I have attempted to grow tropical plants in these modern Wardian Cases. I have put in amphibians and called them vivariums. One day I realized that orchids might be an excellent vivarium plant. They have beautiful foliage, and equally fascinating flowers. After many months of researching the topic, I have come up with a list of orchids that may do well in vivariums, as long as their conditions are met.
The conditions in a vivarium, or terrarium can be manipulated to suit many plants. A terrarium can be made to house arid plants such as cacti and jade plants, and they can be made to house the most fragile of tropical plants, temperate ferns and moss. Wide spectrums of humidity, temperature, ventilation, lighting, and even rainfall, fog, and most often mists can be reproduced. So obviously, in the hands of an expert, which I am not, a terrarium can be a wonderful place to grow even the rarest of orchids. For the beginner however, the easiest orchids to succeed with using a vivarium for growing them are often miniatures, warm loving, shade loving, and humidity loving plants. Many beginners to vivariums and terrariums either have trouble keeping the humidity up, or keeping it too wet. They may also have trouble with keeping sufficient ventilation which in my opinion is a must for successful orchid culture in a glass enclosure. Ventilation in the terrarium is often but not limited to the addition of a mounted computer fan. These fans are the same that are found inside your home computer, and can be easily modified or bought already modified for use inside the terrarium. Once the hobbyist gains sufficient experience to control these factors the hobbyist can find many wonderful orchids to decorate the terrarium, or even dare I say build a terrarium simply to house orchids. Yes, I'm talking about an orchidarium!
The orchid genera which I believe would do well in a glass enclosure are as follow:
For those that enjoy a warm to intermediate temperature range, and shadier conditions are:
Bulbophyllums, Drydella, Haraella, Ludisia, Phalaneopsis, Pleurothalis, Retripia (keep moist), Trichosalpinx chamaelepanthes and T. arbuscula(moschata), Gastrochilus(Microsaccus), and Gongora pleichroma(these may be too large for commonly sized terrariums). All these enjoy humid and wet conditions. Macodes species enjoy drier conditions.
Those with the same temperature requirments but that need better lighting(the equivalent of dappled sunlight) are:
Anoectochilus, Cishwenfia, and Phragmipediums. These however enjoy more humid conditions than does Angraecum dideri.
Providing cooler conditions, temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, you will find that Angraecum scottianum may be suitable if you also provide drier conditions and dappled sunlight like lighting. Trisetella would enjoy more humid conditions than Angraecum.
For shadier environments you will find that Dracula, Masdevallia, Porroglosum, Lepanthes, Restripia, Scaphosepalum, and Platystele will do well.
I am currently keeping a Cischwenfia pusillia in a 55 gallon fish tank that was converted into a vivarium. This orchid had at first been hung on a basket, and I found it to dry out too quickly. The plant was suffering so I decided to place it in the vivarium where it visibly improved over a few months time.
This is a picture of what it looked like before the move into the vivarium,
This is what it looks like now:
In the same vivarium is my most successful enterprise when it comes to orchids. Haraella odorata which has bloomed for me twice, and is about to produce two simultaneous blooms for the first time.
In my 29 gallon tank you would find my second most successful orchid, Masdevallia rolfiana. This particular orchid was classified by the vendor as warm tolerant, so it is an exception to the cool growing Masdevallia rule.
This plant is currently producing 4 new leaves which I see as a good sign that it likes its home.
Also in this same vivarium my newest addition is Angraecum didieri. This orchid seems to be doing well. One of the longer roots has shriveled however in response to constant dampness. However due to adequate ventilation it has not rotted. It is also producing a new leaf. All the other roots have remained thick, white and therefore, hopefully healthy.
If you have not tried your hand at growing miniature orchid in an enclosed terrarium or vivarium, I suggest that you do. It is much easier than one would think.